BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 March 2008, 17:48 GMT
AU troops arrive in the Comoros
Comoran federal troops on exercise in Fomboni (11 March 2008)
The federal government is losing patience with the Anjouan revolt
African Union troops have arrived in the Comoros to help its military regain control of an island where a renegade leader has declared himself president.

The Comoran army chief said France had helped transport Tanzanian forces to the Comoros to prepare an amphibious assault on Anjouan island.

Lt-Col Mohamed Salimou said Anjouan's renegade leader, Mohamed Bacar, only understood the language of violence.

Mr Bacar unilaterally declared himself president of Anjouan island last year.

Earlier, AU special envoy Francesco Madeira told the BBC that time had run out for Mr Bacar and urged him to step down or be overwhelmed by its troops.

Risk to civilians

In an interview with the BBC, Col Salimou said some Tanzanian troops had just landed in the Comoros, where they would join troops from the federal National Development Army preparing for an amphibious assault on Anjouan.

We have come to understand that the only language that Mohamed Bacar will understand is the language of weapons
Lt-Col Mohamed Salimou
Comoran Army Chief of Staff

Although he would not say when the operation might begin, Col Salimou said it would not take more than a week and that they were certain of victory.

Col Salimou said the time for negotiation was over.

"We have negotiated over and over and now this idea is no longer in fashion," he told Focus on Africa. "We have come to understand that the only language that Mohamed Bacar will understand is the language of weapons."

He said that the government forces would try to limit civilian casualties among the 30,000 people on Anjouan, adding that they supported the operation.

Map of Comoros Islands

"What we know is that the civilian population in Anjouan is in favour for us and of this military intervention. So it will be a key element for our attack there and the likelihood of winning," he added.

Col Salimou told the AFP news agency that the Tanzanian force consisted of around 100 soldiers, 50 of whom had so far arrived in the capital, Moroni, on the island of Grande Comore.

Another official told AFP that 75 Senegalese soldiers had arrived in Moroni on Monday. Sudan and Libya have also pledged troops for the mission.

Col Salimou said the AU troops would be transported by ship to Moheli, the smallest of the three islands, where some 400 Comoran troops are based.

'Overwhelmed'

The deployment to the Comoros comes a month after a special AU ministers summit agreed to send troops in support of Comoran President Abdallah Sambi.

Mr Bacar has defied AU and international calls to step down since proclaiming himself president in July 2007 after an election which the central authorities declared illegal.

I am afraid to say that if [Mohamed Bacar] tries to [resist], it will be the end of him physically, if necessary
Francesco Madeira
AU special envoy

Earlier on Monday, the AU special envoy to the Comoros told the BBC that time had run out for Mr Bacar and warned him of the consequences if he tried to resist.

"I am afraid to say that if he tries to do that, it will be the end of him physically, if necessary," Mr Madeira said.

"He will be overwhelmed... and what we are going to do in Anjouan is to take over the island, we will intervene to capture the island."

A history of political violence has left the tiny Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean desperately poor since independence from France in 1975.

At times, the country has teetered on the brink of disintegration, amid tensions between the semi-autonomous islands and the central government.



SEE ALSO
Comoros hit by vanilla competitors
08 Oct 06 |  Business
Islamist elected Comoros leader
16 May 06 |  Africa
Timeline: Comoros
22 Jan 08 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Comoros
22 Jan 08 |  Country profiles

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific